Forget second year syndrome – next week’s Mount Monster is living up to its name.
The surf lifesaving showpiece in Mount Maunganui on December 20 has doubled its field from last year’s inaugural race, with more than 230 surf athletes set to take part.
Defending men’s champion Cory Taylor is returning to the 25km endurance classic, while his New Zealand teammate, Omanu’s Max Beattie, is also competing.
The individual ranks have jumped noticeably, with 70 people lined up for the four-leg epic, while more than 50 teams will also take part.
“We’re utterly delighted with entries this year,” Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service chairman Paul Treanor said. “Last year’s event really captured the imagination of clubbies throughout New Zealand and overseas and they loved the fresh feel of the event. It’s such an incredibly inspiring piece of coastline to stage an event on and we expect it to keep growing year after year as the word spreads.”
The race features a 5km beach run, a spectacular swim leg which includes a jump off Moturiki Island’s blowhole, a 12km ski leg and a 6km board paddle. It starts and finishes on Mount Maunganui’s Main Beach, with the ski leg taking competitors down to neighbouring Omanu Beach.
Billed as the New Zealand version of the Coolangatta Gold, Taylor took out last year’s race in 2hrs 21mins 22secs, with Beattie clocking 2:26.21 and fast-finsihing Australian Jackson Maynard third in 2:27.20.
Maynard has since graduated to the lucrative Kellogg’s Ironman series in Australia alongside last year’s female Monster winner, Danielle McKenzie.
Although he’s made a strong start to the Kellogg’s series, Maynard is gutted he’ll miss this year’s Monster.
“The Mount Monster is unlike any other ironman race in the world,” Maynard said. “The way it incorporates the beautiful landmarks around the Mount is amazing. It’s probably one of the most demanding and grueling races I have ever done but at the same time, you just can’t help but have fun doing it.”
Taylor and Beattie are likely to face stiff competition from a handful of eager young locals, including Papamoa’s Mason Bryant, Mount Maunganui’s Sam Shergold and Whanagamata’s Bjorn Battaerd. Beattie and Taylor will chase the the $2000 first prize, having returned from their Queensland base after incredible last 12 months.
Taylor kicked on from his commanding Monster win by winning his first New Zealand ironman title in Whakatane, before combining with McKenzie and Beattie to help New Zealand defend their world championship title in France in September.
The concept of the race has been developed by Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service club coach John Bryant, who has used it as a training tool for years. Bryant was delighted to see it formalised into a proper race last year, especially with the signature blowhole jump included.
“The blowhole jump isn’t just a test of nerves, it’s a valuable training tool for our lifeguards,” Bryant said. “We’ve had a number of rescues around the rocks at the end of Moturiki Island over the years and our lifeguards need to know how to safely negotiate entering and exiting the water. It’s also a whole lot of fun – once you’ve conquered your fear – and it gives the Mount Monster race an extra special piece of local flavor.”
See a video of the event here: https://vimeo.com/92368069